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The Tragedy of Forced Equality in Harrison Bergeron

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The Tragedy of Forced Equality in Harrison Bergeron

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The Tragedy of Forced Equality
In Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, we are presented a world where the crusade for social equality sends society into a dystopia of forced ignorance and stunted abilities. In America, equality means that all aspects of our culture are uniform; you should be treated the same regardless of your religious, racial, or societal background. I do not believe absolute equality is a right. Being treated equally and being treated respectfully are used interchangeably today in our culture. Americans campaign for our “equal” rights; gay rights, women’s rights, working rights, but in actuality, we don’t want to be accepted as the same. For example, a woman would like to be treated fairly and receive the same salary as her male colleagues. However, she does not want to be treated equally and use the same bathroom as they do. In Vonnegut’s story, it’s revealed that not only is equality seemingly impossible to obtain, but society shouldn’t even desire it. Vonnegut writes, “Everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.” Equality is so highly regarded in this future America that the citizens willingly wear their impairment devices which, in turn, prevent them from questioning why they wanted to be equal to begin with. George, who unhindered would be strong and wise, is heavily burdened by his handicaps, but he refuses to take them off even in his own home, in fear of returning to the dark ages. George rhetorically asks, “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?” Almost instantly through the mental handicap radio in his ear, his thoughts are interrupted, enforcing the idea that society now lacks humanity. In a culmination of unnerving events, Harrison is shot dead by Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, after tearing off his handicap devices. This exposes that not only is it irrational to restrict the abilities of those who...